CPC Plant Profile: Desert Yellowhead
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Plant Profile

Desert Yellowhead (Yermo xanthocephalus)

The yellow flowers of the desert yellowhead are crowded together in terminal inflorescences atop stalks that grow up to 30 cm tall. Photo Credit: Bonnie Heidel
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Threatened
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • State: WY
  • Nature Serve ID: 150568
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 12/01/2021

The Wind River Basin of central Wyoming is home to a remarkable number of rare plants, but none as rare as the desert yellowhead, a wildflower that was only discovered in 1990, and whose entire global distribution is limited to about 6 acres of cold desert habitat here. The genus name, Yermo, is a Spanish word meaning uninhabited land, an apt description of the remote badland setting where this plant occurs. This species is the only species in the Yermo genus. With clusters of bright yellow flowers and thick, leathery leaves, desert yellowhead is an oddly showy plant for such a harsh, barren landscape.

Participating Institutions
Updates
  • 10/02/2020
  • Propagation Research

Scott and Hoster (2000) have shown that seeds have a higher germination rate when given a warm treatment rather than a cold treatment, suggesting that seeds may germinate the same season they are produced.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Recently described monotypic genus known only from a single site in central Wyoming. A Wyoming Natural Diversity Database survey in 1994 found only 1500 plants occupying an area of less than 2.5 ha. The species is either recently evolved (although quite disjunct from its nearest relatives) or is relatively ancient and in its last refugium.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Extremely vulnerable to extinction due to its restricted range and small population size. Construction associated with oil and gas development. Off-road vehicle damage. Livestock trampling.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

The entire global distribution is limited to about 6 acres of suitable habitat in the Beaver Rim area (Wind River Basin) of southeastern Fremont County, Wyoming. Population approximately 11,600 individuals (Fertig 2000).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Scott and Hoster (2000) have shown that seeds have a higher germination rate when given a warm treatment rather than a cold treatment, suggesting that seeds may germinate the same season they are produced.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Protection of habitat.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Long term monitoring of population trends.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Additional seed banking.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Yermo xanthocephalus
Authority Dorn
Family Asteraceae
CPC Number 15592
ITIS 507242
USDA YEXA
Common Names desert yellowhead
Associated Scientific Names Yermo xanthocephalus
Distribution Known only from a single occurrence in the Wind River Basin of central Wyoming (Fremont County). Surveys from 1990-1997 failed to document additional sites.
State Rank
State State Rank
Wyoming S1
Habitat

Low slopes, rim margins, colluvial fans, and bottoms of deflation hollows, on poorly-developed soils derived from sandstones and clays of the Miocene-age Split Rock Formation. Occurs in cushion plant communities within more densely vegetated cold desert shrubland dominated by big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Elevation 6700 ft.

Ecological Relationships

Occurs with three other rare plants, Cedar Rim thistle (Cirsium aridum), Beaver Rim phlox (Phlox pungens), and Devil's Gate twinpod (Physaria eburniflora).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Floral Visitor Link
Butterflies & Moths
Skippers Skippers Floral Visitor Link
Other
Ants Floral Visitor Link
Sawflies Sawflies Floral Visitor Link
Wasps Floral Visitor Link

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